This week, Microsoft outlined a list of 10 principles for the Microsoft Store on Windows in a not-so-subtle jab on Apple and Google. The overall message: Microsoft is supporting Epic Games in the war with Apple and Google over the 30% cut companies take on every purchase on the iOS App Store and Google Play store, respectively.
Last week, Google doubled its stance by saying that a) Android supports different app stores (as opposed to iOS) and that b) Google will enforce its 30% cut on digital items (as Apple does). Since there is no way Apple allows third-party app stores on iOS, Google decided to present Android as the lesser of two accidents to ensure that it can continue to print money. This gamble may well pay off, but Google should have taken the “do not be mean”
Epic started this whole saga on August 13 by updating Fortnite for Android and iOS to use its own billing service, which resulted in Apple and Google deleting the game from their mobile app stores. Epic then turned around and sued both tech giants. The lawsuits could define how all developers, from individuals to large companies, distribute apps and games, not only on the world’s duopoly of mobile operating systems, but, as Microsoft has signaled, on data processors in general.
Here are Microsoft’s app store principles:
- Developers will be free to choose whether to distribute their apps for Windows through our app store. We will not block competing app stores on Windows.
- We will not block an app from Windows based on a developer’s business model or how it delivers content and services, including whether content is installed on a device or streamed from the cloud.
- We will not block an app from Windows based on the developer’s choice of which payment system to use to process purchases made in the app.
- We want to give developers timely access to information about the interoperability interfaces we use on Windows, as described in our interoperability principles.
- Every developer will have access to our app store as long as it meets objective standards and requirements, including for security, privacy, quality, content and digital security.
- Our app store charges reasonable fees that reflect the competition we face from other app stores on Windows, and will not force a developer to sell something in their app that it does not want to sell.
- Our app store will not prevent developers from communicating directly with their users via their apps for legitimate business purposes.
- Our app store will keep our own apps to the same standards as it contains competing apps.
- Microsoft will not use non-public information or data from its app store about a developer’s app to compete with it.
- Our app store will be transparent about its rules and guidelines and opportunities for marketing and marketing, use these consistently and objectively, notify of changes and make available a fair process for resolving disputes.
Google could have, and frankly should have written its own version of these rules. The company mainly already rules number one. Even more for rule number two. But that is the third rule that Google could not give up. Google could have written the rest of the rules, for Android, and saved many years of legal battles and antitrust issues. But you see, number three is too much of a cash cow.
I think it is often lost on most people why 30% tax is so massive. In addition to the sticker price of an app or game, the fee includes every transaction that takes place in every Android / iOS app and game, from subscription fees to every digital coin and virtual item. Google, like Apple, will continue to charge a 30% cut all that. Businesses do this by requiring all apps to use their respective billing systems.
Here’s this week’s Microsoft rule, rewritten for Google:
We will not block an app from Android based on the developer’s choice of which payment system to use to process purchases made in the app.
And here’s what Google wrote instead last week:
We only charge a service fee if the developer requires users to download their app, or they sell digital goods in the app, and we think that’s fair.
Dear Google, You have confused justice with greed. And now it’s too late to save face. You drew a line in the sand that separates you from Apple, but Microsoft drew a circle around the two of you and jumped into the water with Epic.
ProBeat is a column where Emil scares about what crosses him that week.